Referenda and the Regional Elections

The opposition has taken the recall referendum to the courts, possibly preventing the referendum all together, even while it continues to negotiate with the electoral council. Will its threat to boycott the regional elections now prevail?

April 4, 2004

You will recall that a few weeks ago I dared to offer you what could be some possible scenarios with regard to the recall referendum.

I believe it was a bit illusory to think that the process would develop transparently, with all cards on the table. It was not so – they were under their sleeves, as we saw, while the mechanisms for the “repair” process were being negotiated and it seemed that the two sides were nearing an agreement.

The CNE (National Electoral Council), for example, had proposed 620 centers, but accepted 2,700 for five days, so 100 voters could approach per day per center. Nevertheless, the opposition took the issue to the Electoral Chamber of the Supreme Court and from there everything has become more complicated. Surely it will continue like this, until, in the end, there will be no recall referendum. But this would be not because of what the officialist side has said, that there are not enough signatures, but due to the intentional judicial ruckus so that they cannot be counted.

Why the appeal to this instance?

One must assume that, just as occurs in many courts, that the sentence was elaborated by one of the parties in the conflict. In this case, people from the Democratic Coordinator were involved.

On March 26, Gerardo Blyde, of Primero Justicia, wrote that, “The Electoral Chamber must ratify its exclusive competency in the matter of the annulment of the acts of the CNE, in conformity with the constitution, it should not pass on the files, and it should continue to hear the cases that attempt to annul the unconstitutional or illegal acts of the CNE.” Three days later, the Electoral Chamber issued a sentence just as it was asked to, almost with the exact same commas and periods, and when asked, Blyde said, “A tremendous sentence… worthy of a book.” This chamber should still issue another sentence which could possibly close the path towards the recall referendum because the CNE, respecting the decisions of the Constitutional Chamber, will not abide by the Electoral Chamber’s decisions.

Within the opposition, there are two tendencies currently, one which wants the referendum, but will participate in the regional elections and the other which conditions its participation in the regional elections on the convocation of the recall referendum.

I don’t know which of these two will prevail.

What is clear, though, is that not going to the regional elections is to concede an enormous quota of power that currently is in the hands of the opposition. Just the budgets of the Capital District and of the oppositional states added up to no less than $1.8 billion in 2003. How much do the police forces of over one hundred municipalities add up to? This kind of force one does no concede for anything.

Assuming that they are not thinking of another coup adventure, one must believe that they trust that such a withdrawal from the regional elections (always under the assumption that a majority of the 10,000 candidates accepts this), along with street protests, will generate a climate of ingovernability that could stimulate diverse actions from the exterior, where the most varied accusations are being made.

They have been wrong every time that they diverted from the democratic and constitutional path, why would they be successful this time?

Eleazar Diaz Rangel is the editor of the largest Venezuelan daily newspaper, Últimas Noticias

Translated by Gregory Wilpert

Source: Últimas Noticias